The movie theater chain sued by three moviegoers injured by a gunman in Aurora, Colo., has filed to dismiss the lawsuit, saying that it could not have foreseen the mass shooting that took place July 20.
"It would be patently unfair, and legally unsound, to impose on Cinemark, a private business in the entertainment industry, the duty and burden to have foreseen and prevented the criminal equivalent of a meteor falling from the sky," a court document filed by Cinemark on Thursday stated.
James Holmes, 24, was charged with murder and attempted murder after killing 12 and injuring 58 other people.
Cinemark USA is based in Plano, Texas, and has 461 theaters in the U.S. and Latin America as of June 30, the company states on its website. Cinemark did not return a request for comment.
Keating, Wagner, Polidori and Free, the law firm representing the first three plaintiffs who filed a lawsuit in Denver federal court against Cinemark, did not immediately return a request for comment.
The plaintiffs, Joshua Nowlan, Denise Traynom and Brandon Axelrod, each were shot in various parts of their bodies. Nowlan's right arm was almost severed from the gunshots, the suit says, plus he had injuries to his left leg.
"Although the theater was showing a midnight premiere of the movie and was expecting large crowds of people to attend the midnight showing, no security personnel were present for that showing," their lawsuit stated.
The plaintiffs argue the theater should have been prepared for the shooting, after alleging a previous gang shooting at the venue.
In its motion to dismiss, the theater disputed the assertion, but said that even if it was true, "such an event would be insufficient to make a madman's mass murder foreseeable."
Loren Brown, a personal injury attorney in Colorado who is not involved with the lawsuit, said the state's Lawsuit Premises Liability Act puts some of the burden of protecting customers who are entering property to conduct business.
"If you have someone coming onto your property, or a class of person coming to do business, you've got to take reasonable steps to protect them from dangers that you know about or should know about it," Brown said.
Brown said in order for the plaintiffs to be successful, they will have to relate any past violent incidents at the theater to the mass shootings. That could be a "closer call," Brown said.
"If you have a couple drunks get into a fight in the lobby, that's a whole different thing than someone coming and doing what James Holmes did. That's something that the defense will want to draw out; that it was so unique in character, there's no way it could have been predicted."
Brown said he expects more of the victims will file lawsuits against the theater. He called the law firm representing the plaintiffs, "one of the premier firms in Denver for injured people."
"I would expect to see once they get their toes in the water, other people will be getting more brave," he said.